Cuvaison 2014 by Greenport Harbor Brewing Co.

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GHBC Account Manager Justin Wesnofske and Co-owner John Liegey

Loosely translating as a sense of place, terroir refers to the effect a region has had on the production of agricultural products. In the past such a thing was not possible in beer since brewery consolidation and expansion as well as environmental factors (like downy mildew) caused the closure of many malt and hop producers across the country. In fact, most malt used to brew some of your favorite beer is not made from grain grown in the United States. In recent years however there has been a shift, as in many things culinary, toward local ingredients. Large scale craft breweries like Rogue Ales in Oregon and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in California cultivate their own hops and malt from which they craft beers expressing a sense of place. On a smaller scale, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company has taken the steps toward bringing terroir to the North Fork of Long Island.

Terroir is not a term which normally rolls off the tongue when discussing beer but NYS Farm Brewers, like Greenport Harbor Brewing Company are trying to change that. Each year GHBC uses grape juice and fruit from a local vineyard to brew their Cuvaison, bringing a local quality to the beer. As a NYS Farm Brewery, a license which requires the use of 20% of ingredients produced in NY with the percentage increasing as the years go on, Greenport Harbor not only includes local wine grapes and juice in their Cuvaison but also New York state hops and malt too.

“There are not a ton of all NY beers out there,” said head brewer DJ Swanson when we talked with him about Cuvaison. Each version of this Belgian Strong Ale is unique. It’s a beer which, “captures the whole North Fork thing,” according to Swanson. Co-owner John Liegey commented, “The thing I like about this series is that we do it with a different vineyard every year and it really kinda takes it’s own personality on with the vineyard that we choose.” The 2014 iteration of Cuvaison is a beer that definitely drinks with lots of personality.

This year Cuvaison was made with sauvignon blanc and chardonnay grapes as well as juice from Jamesport Vineyards. “We’re not the smartest guys, you know. It’s you look next door and, ‘Oh, a vineyard. Let’s do something with that,’ ” noted Liegey while contemplating their creation. This is a beer the affable Liegey “sees” on each drive to the brewery months before it is brewed. “There’s the grapes like hanging from the vines when it’s nearly harvest.” Thinking back to those trips he continues, “they are asking for us to brew with them,” something that comes through in the beer.

Cuvaison 2014 meets the drinker with it’s distinct Belgian yeast character as one approaches the glass. Upon sipping it express the white wine grapes used in it’s creation marrying them to the fruity and ester rich yeast characteristics. The experience of tasting this beer closes with a dry, bracing finish which leaves the taster refreshed. Liegey was really happy with the 2014 version remarking, “It kinda finishes with this good vinous thing at the end where you do kinda get the grapes pretty nicely and strongly but it’s super clean.” We share his view points as this Cuvaison appealed not only to us but our non beer drinking friends and family as well. With a lower ABV and overall lighter body than the 2013 version, which was brewed with Merlot grapes and juice from McCall Ranch, this year’s edition is one that could easily pair with food.

Cuvaison is linked to the local harvest as much as any wet/fresh hop ale. It is a beer which is brewed when the year’s grapes are ready to be brought in. Like the wine they are used to produce, variation will be seen based on weather and climate conditions in the finished ale. Cuvaison appears in the market place in limited quantities then is gone until next year but has, so far, never come back exactly the same. Could 2015 be the start of a new trend? “I actually think, ‘wow this is maybe what we should look at next year to try and hit somewhere in this space’ because I see myself having that beer and enjoying something to eat with it,” Liegey said echoing our enjoyment of his brewery’s beer. Look for Cuvaison 2014 at finer eating and drinking establishments over the next several months. This is a versatile and engaging brew which for us captures a sense of Long Island and a bit of brewing terroir.

Barrage Brewing Company Tasting Room Grand Opening – July 19, 2014

Barrage Brewing Company has had their doors open since January of this year, thanks to a lot of hard work by owner Steve Pominski and a little help from Kickstarter, but there is now a new addition to the brewery: a place to enjoy the beer. Pominski and longtime friend Al Nappi have had the brewery under construction for the past couple months and the tasting room is now (softly) open for business. The official grand opening celebration will be on July 19.


Barrage Brewing Company's New Tasting Room

Barrage Brewing Company’s New Tasting Room

New, expanded hours include Friday from 4-8 pm, in addition to their current hours of 1-5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Instead of waiting in the brewery for growler fills, customers will be now able to both fill their growlers and enjoy pints and sample glasses from the 8 tap system in the new tasting room. Though the area is small, seating is available and there are even some bar stools upholstered with horse hair, we kid you not. The personal nature makes it feel like a true garage bar aka bar-rage. Hey, that’s the name of the brewery.


Owner and Brewmaster Steve Pominski Contemplates His Work

Owner and Brewmaster Steve Pominski Contemplates His Work

Not only does this give people an awesome place to hang out in Farmingdale, but it also frees up time for Pominski to produce more Barrage beer. Turns out it’s kind of hard to brew and fill growlers at the same time, but with the brewery and tasting room now separate it allows him to produce beer while someone else mans the taps. Don’t worry though, he will still be popping his head in from time to time to say hello. He is excited about the addition saying, “we’d like this to become a destination,” and a tasting room is a big step towards making that happen.


Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

The grand opening party kicks off Saturday, July 19 at 1 pm. All eight taps will be flowing, with a few rare releases making an appearance. Most notably is the Yada Yada, a Seinfeld themed brown ale that is fermented with Snickers bars and as Steve put it “is Snickering as we speak.” Do you think he cut them with a fork and knife? Stop by to check it out, try the barrage of selections and most importantly, do it all while relaxing under the same roof where your beer is made.


Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale to Add Brewery

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First published on Edible Long Island

A brewery incubator is coming to Farmingdale, but the address should be familiar to many. A Taste of Long Island, the incubator kitchen and local food market run by Jim Thompson with his daughter Courtney, will be home to the next wave of nano-breweries to hit Long Island. Currently, a Taste of Long Island rents its commercial kitchen to local producers who need an insured licensed space to work. Items produced on site are sold in the front of the house specialty market and also independently distributed. The facility gives small startup businesses a way to get their goods to the public without a huge upfront investment. Now the venture will provide several local brewers a space to professionally produce beer under their own licenses and brands.

“It’s cross generational from the millennials to the old guys like me,” says Thompson, who started home brewing in the ’90s. “I’m 60 years old and in the last year I got into craft beer.” He recruited four pioneer brewers, and with their help a Taste of Long Island is being outfitted to brew. Each brewery will rent time in the test kitchen just like anyone else, but the industrial stovetop will be used for brewing. The beer will ferment in the downstairs cold room, where each brewery has its own fermenters. They are then free to keg, bottle and distribute as they please. He envisions their graduating into their own locations, freeing up space for the next round of new brewers.

Thompson has already received federal and state approvals to operate as a farm brewery and is eager to brew once all the equipment is in place. “I would love to see Long Island become a regional powerhouse of craft beer,” he says, “and I’d love to lead that.” His beers will be the first available on tap; the other brewers will follow suit as their licenses come in. Samples, pints and growlers will be available in house and Thompson plans to sell at farmers markets, with distribution to local bars and restaurants as a goal.

Each brewer has their own vision for how they will use this opportunity, and we had the chance to discuss the venture with each of them. As they eagerly await the green light to brew, we will be profiling each of them on Beer Loves Company and Edible Long Island. Stay tuned to the nano-newness coming out of a Taste of Long Island brewery.

Brewing a Fresh Hop Ale with Long Ireland Beer Company

Most brew days we have been a part of begin early and are usually fueled by a morning cup of coffee and a beer or two as the day progresses. Whether we are brewing with a fellow home brewer on a ten gallon system or observing a professional boil in a big burly kettle at their brewery, the process is fairly similar. It all starts with raw ingredients and ends with plenty of liquid that, after a little bit of time and attention, becomes beer. We recently had the opportunity to be there for Long Irelands fresh hop brew day, but this time we did not start out at the brewery. We took it back a step and began our day at Condzellas Farm, where the hops that would be used for brewing were being harvested.

We already detailed that process, so we won’t bore you again, but definitely check out this video of Beer Loves Company + Hops doing her thing if you haven’t already. Once the hops were harvested, weighed out and packed in crates it was time to transport them to the final stop in their journey, Long Ireland. If you have never delivered pounds of fresh hops to a brewery, know this: that hoppy smell does not easily leave your car and it may make you crave an IPA at 9 am. We were met at Long Ireland by Justin Wesnofske of Wesnofske Farms, bearing his own crates of hops that he had painstakingly hand harvested the night before/earlier that morning. After our own recent hop harvesting endeavor we could feel Justin’s pain and understand why Mr. Condzella wanted to bring Beer Loves Company + Hops to Long Island!

Long Ireland went about brewing their standard Celtic Ale the same way they have done hundreds of times before, with the exception of the wall of fresh hops in the brewery that had everyone’s attention. When it came time to add these hops, they opted to stuff some into gigantic hop sacks (Snoop Dog would have approved) adding those to the boil. As time progressed, more hops were added using the mash tun as a hop back. This time they were thrown in loose, producing what looked like a pretty wild (and hoppy) soup. Long Ireland and all of the brewers went above and beyond to make sure the fresh hop characteristics were transferred into their brew.

Seeing an ingredient go from bine (remember not vine) to brew kettle in the span of a few short hours really hammered home the “drink local” message. Hopefully it won’t be too long before breweries here are using Long Island malt as well. Long Ireland has transferred their license over to what is known as a “farm brewery” license and will be using more and more NY state grown ingredients in the coming years. They will be releasing their Fresh Hop ale at an event this Friday, along with Greenport Harbor. We will have all the details on that tomorrow, but know that all proceeds will support Condzella Hops and Wesnofske Farms, which is beyond awesome and shows that the bond between farmers and brewers is only getting stronger. Beer loves Long Island and we think Long Island might just love it back.